Coffee GirlA Story by George Love
Returning to normal life after tragedy strikes, a young girl deasl with the loss of her family and the retention of her sanity.
Through bloodshot eyes born of little sleep and far too many memories, she pours the first cup of coffee. Hot, sweet, and light the brew offers its first toast to the coming day. Her kitchen bears the scars of too many mornings such as this. The window over the sink once bore witness to carefree times and overlooked a happy place where children played games, family pets destroyed countless plants, and fruit trees somehow managed to produce edible memories from happier times.
The barren floor feels rough on her bare feet as she manages to sit at the nearly broken table which also bears scars from too many days in existence. She sighs deeply as she takes another sip of her coffee, wishing for some of those better days to return. The house remains quiet, still, motionless safe for the clicking of the coffee machine as it cycles to keep her coffee warm, eagerly awaiting her second cup, and at times a third before she cleans some portion of her derelict dream house.
The morning sky is grey, lending to the depressing mood. From another room, life appears in the form of a large tabby. The cat walks slowly, seeking another source of warmth for its arthritic joints. She purrs softly and rubs around her human’s legs as if the coldness in that touch could ease some of her pain as well. She is rewarded by a soft touch, a gentle rub of her head, and at last a spot on her lap, which is warm and comforting. She wonders about the source of warmth in the cup, forgetting it made her stomach hurt the last time she drank from it. The caffeine did little for her digestion and without dignity; she hacked up her meager breakfast on one of the bathmats.
In silence they offer to each other the comfort few souls could understand. The tabby lingers in her lap as she purrs contently. She is not quite ready to continue her daily patrols of the house. She is content to rest in this nearly cleaned room, now devoid of the source of her owner’s memories.
Around the corner, in another quiet and darkened room; hidden under years of dust lay the remnants of memories from years before her entry. She has yet to explore them for the door stays closed. As curious as her nature is, she has no want to enter that room. It is always colder than the rest of the house in winter and much warmer than she desires in summer.
Today, she places the tabby on the floor at the foot of her chair and pours another salute to the grayish day ahead. There’s so much to do, yet so little. She has no care to pay the bills as they are all paid for her. The trust fund still has enough money to keep her existence stable. She cares little for the contents of the garage, yet she makes her way there this morning. The old smell of rubber, oil, and gasoline linger. The first bay stands empty. Once, her father’s prized possession sat here, saved for the sunny day drives they enjoyed together, drives the entire family enjoyed when the weather was fair and days were brighter.
The second bay houses the family car, her mother’s car, or as her mother proclaimed it; the family taxi service. The tires low on air, the hulking van held little to stir her soul. Memories from their old day to day life, countless trips to the dentist, doctors, schools, grocery trips, and church outings faded with each passing day.
The third bay was her only prized possession. Her parents called the bike her Rebellion in Pink. The pink Harley Davidson modified soft tail was hers, though she rode it very little even when she felt rebellious. She felt attached to the bike, but riding no longer suited her passion, yet she could not part with it. She opened the garage door to allow some of the stale air escape. The grayness of the day seemed to pour in, almost overwhelming her. She felt the grey enter her soul so deeply she almost dropped her cup.
Rattled by the burst of sensitivity, she took the last drink from her cup and steadied herself to face the view. Clouds covered the blue today and the dampness dripped from the leaves of the hedges separating her yard from the neighbors. Barefooted, she steps into the cool driveway as she manages to walk its length. The morning paper lies in a puddle of water beside the box she purchased to keep the printed word dry. At least the environmentally friendly plastic protected her dose of daily reality.
She returns to the house and enters the kitchen again. The tabby lies in her chair, seeming to warm it for her, yet she knows better. The house cat will stay there most of the day, soothing herself with her own warmth. She feels a long bath might ease her own pain, yet as she draws the hot water into the tub, she feels mostly numb. Her bath salts delivered by a lady she never sees, and never needs to; grant a small bit of lightness into the nearly dark room. Light bulbs to replace were not on her to do list today. Maybe tomorrow, maybe tomorrow.
As she gently slides her body into the warmth of the tub, she contemplates the cleaning she might attempt today. In an hour or two of unhurried work, she could finish the kitchen and maybe vacuum one of the rooms downstairs. If her body will allow her to work at all today, she wants the kitchen floor cleaned so her feet will no longer feel the memories and transmit them to her all too tired a frazzled brain.
A shaft of light breaks through the grey haze outside and finds its way past the tattered curtains into the living room. It shoots across the floor and lands on the chair as the tabby stretches in the warmth. Her bones enjoy this newfound, although brief warmth and she rolls her body to absorb the best of the thin light, knowing it will fade within minutes.
Seeing the light, she knows her day will improve, though only by small bits. She dries herself with one of the few new items in the house, a thick bath towel she had delivered from a mail order catalog. The delivery truck sat for several minutes before the thin female driver cautiously walked up to her door and rang the doorbell dutifully to announce the item’s arrival. The truck was out of sight by the time she opened the door and tore into the package.
Stiffly, she pulls on a pair of coveralls to protect her from the cleaning solutions. Her hands don the gloves required for using bleach as that is the only substance that will remove the memories from the kitchen floor made rough by the months of neglect.
She puts pads on knees made fragile by the sport she played into her college days. Who knew her love for volleyball was the reason she still existed? Bucket and bleach in hand, she turns on all the lights in the kitchen and starts to work. As she scrubs one area at a time, deliberately removing traces and memories of her father’s death, she lets her mind drift into a different place. Not a completely better place, but a different place. She’s twelve, the night was bright with stars and a moon you could almost reach out and touch. With the beginning of her womanly parts barely visible, she felt awkward in anything she tried to wear, except her own skin and even that bugled in places she did not understand.
She’s walking through the side yard with her older sister, trying to explain how she feels and looking into the eyes of her own face; even though years older, their faces looked identical.
Her sister tells her she was thirteen when it happened to her, and the embarrassment of announcing her womanhood to the world at the club’s swimming pool made her refuse to return for the whole summer. Even the fall harvest ball was hard for her to attend, yet she did and without any mishaps.
Her older brother played a few cruel jokes on the girls, and she let her mind wander to one she thought was incredibly funny, but still quite cruel. She allowed herself to laugh quietly to herself as she rinsed one more spot on the floor declaring it completely clean. Her feet might even thank her in the morning, should she wander into this side of the large country kitchen.
From her memories, she returns to this reality and surveys the work she completed on the kitchen floor. Clean of all things tied to bad memories now, it looks new matching the new look of the counters she cleaned last week. The cabinets required professional help, but the crime scene cleanup crew acted far too impersonal for her to hire again. Their sterile demeanor did little to remove the memories, and she hired out the rest of the cabinet work to a local cabinet maker to clean and re-stain her woodwork for her.
He was a kind person who even allowed her cat to survey and inspect his work. When he offered to show pictures of his family, she had to decline his offer. She had no family and did not want to see pictures of one, not now. That was not on her to do list that day, and she doubted it would ever be on her to do list after the destruction of her family and part of her sanity.
Enough work this morning. She turned the coffee machine off and cleaned it deliberately to insure her next morning’s brew would mimic today’s. She surveyed the rest of the kitchen and slipped off one shoe. The floor felt smooth and cool to her skin, and she knew her tabby would appreciate the clean floor as well. She tossed the bathmats used to cover stains of human remains into the garbage, and another memory left the house.
Anchored to this house as her dream turned nightmare, she returns to her room, her sanctuary from the destruction which marred the rest of the house. This room spared the ravages of those who ransacked the house in search of something, anything that might resemble market value. How little they valued human life, yet took nothing from this one room.
The grey morning turned now into a less than bright afternoon with some low clouds hiding the sun from her face. Her room was brighter than any other room in the house, and she at times felt guilty that she had this room. It was on the top floor of the three story house, accessible through the spiral staircase at the end of the second floor hallway. The tower room, her mother called it, and would have had it for her sewing room if she indeed could have managed to learn how to sew.
The room was a tower of sorts, with a spire attached that included a weather vane her father rescued from a salvage yard on one of their afternoon outings. She loved this room in earlier days, and the bed made to fit into it was well. They had to raise the mattress and foundation with ropes from the ground as they would not fit up the winding staircase. Her father, brother and sister all worked for over an hour to raise everything up the side of the house so she could have her bed. She helped as well of course, but being the youngest, her help consisted of supervision over muscle.
She felt safe in this room, even after the funeral, police detectives, and insurance adjusters finally ended. She thought of a nap, but her mind was not tired. When would her body and mind ever cooperate again? Her body was tired, but her mind never seemed to rest.
She turned on her old reliable laptop and surfed online auctions, online retailers, and found there was nothing she could not live without for sale today. She found she could not turn off the computer without checking on something for her cat. The old girl liked to play with catnip toys, and her last one looked rather rough for wear. She noticed it in the middle of her bathroom floor, and almost let out a small shriek when she saw the condition of that mangled mouse.
She found several brightly colored items her tabby might love, but settled on three she knew she would fancy above all others. The mice were natural color squeaky toys with catnip inside and dipped in a catnip tea before packaging. Each should last her tabby a month or so, then she could find others. She checked her bank account to make sure she did not dip into her trust fund’s primary account. She had three accounts set up to take care of her living expenses. Through some odd twist, her cat’s expenses were not included in her daily living expenses, so she had to cut something she wanted to take care of the only family member left.
She transferred money from her food budget to her daily expenses and made her purchase. At least her tabby would find some moments of joy in the coming days. Satisfied at her efforts, she took the time to make her bed. Some days this took all her mental strength, but today it was something she wanted to do for herself. She stripped the linens from the bed and replaced them with fresh linens from her closet. She tied the dirty linens into bag and lowered them down the laundry chute to the basement, and it a day or two, she would venture into that abyss to catch up on her laundry. Time seemed to slip away from her today as it did most days.
Lunch today was tuna salad on wheat toast. Not her favorite food, but it was available and it did not take long to prepare. The smell of fish woke her furry sleeping companion from dreams of tasting such morsels fresh from the sea. She allowed the tabby to lick the can clean of its juices, and stray bits of tuna she intentionally left behind. With her tabby’s curiosity and hunger for fish fulfilled for the moment, she took her sandwich and tea to the back deck which overlooked a good portion of the side and back yards. The wind picked up slightly, clearing most of the damp feeling away, replacing it with a fresh spring like scent which was welcome today of all days.
She took a deep breath as she surveyed the area. Some overgrown portions would require her attention soon, but for today she noted the future needs of her small estate. Sounds of the neighborhood filtered into her world. There were days she shrank from these sounds, but today she welcomed them. At least some of her neighbors could access life and continue to live, not exist. Some threw up privacy fences following that horrible day and night of screams and torture as one by one her family perished. Other families moved away and realtors clamored to sell small estates only to find this exclusive neighborhood became more exclusive by the events of that day. One prominent real estate agent even petitioned the city council to have her home torn down and converted to a green space. His request fell upon deaf ears due to her family’s history as founders and developers of the township itself.
The sounds of yard machines working and vehicles traveling the streets took away another portion of her fear for those around her. They, or at least some of them, felt safe enough to care for their yards again. One family suffered almost as much as her family, but their suffering did not gather the attention of the rest of the town. She felt no guilt over that. Her family was wiped out, their family still lives. They live a life of scrutiny, ridicule, and from some hatred, but they do still live.
Her senses declared they had experienced enough by letting a strong sneeze rack her body. It felt good to sneeze like this with no one around. In her world, she was encouraged to hide such bodily functions or to do so daintily. It was something that came natural to her, and it also served to help her survive before the last one of them was taken down by the local police.
“To your room, now before it’s too late! Just go!” her father yelled at her in a coarse whispering yell meant for her ears only. She did not question him as she could hear the front doors crash open. She hid in her tower room, safe from the intruders, safe from all but the sounds of death in her house. Her tabby scurried just scant seconds ahead of her as if leading the way to safety for her, pausing to look back as she topped the stairs.
Her bare feet mad e no noise as she ran, maybe that helped save her as well. The intruders knew she was in the house. There were too many clues to her existence. She knew they searched for her. She knew they tortured her sister until she died, but she did not give her away. She could hear her brother’s stern silence, then the sound of his blood splashing to the floor as they ended his life before her mother’s eyes.
They did not know her room existed. From the inside of the house, the door looked like another paneled wall. From the outside, it looked decorative, not functional, so the layout of the house confused the intruders. Even with their technology and strength, in her room she was safe from them and her father knew it.
Her sister lasted over two hours, enduring their torturous ways with an inner strength she knew came from deeper family strains. Her brother was her equal, and they might have tortured him longer except his silence enraged them to the point of his death.
They tortured her mother longer, all the while forcing her father to watch in hopes of breaking him. Her cries brought the neighbors to full alert and they called the police. The first officers who entered died immediately. She was impressed at how quickly they established their barricades, but angered at how smug they were as they never missed a beat in their torture.
When her mother’s heart gave out from the physical abuse they were angered with such intense rage the house shook with their screams of fury. Dust assaulted her nose and she tried to stifle the sneeze, knowing this would draw one of them to her. She timed her sneeze to coincide with one of their loudest screams, and made sure she sneezed as daintily as a girl in peril could sneeze.
Her father’s torture began and at this point, she almost gave herself up to them, but her father proclaimed his blood would cover his house before his daughter would show her face. They took him literally, and slung his body around the house, starting in the kitchen. Every room in the house except hers bore the blood of her father. Her father was the strongest man she knew, and as a testament to this strength, killed one of the intruders as he himself was dying. His heart continued to beat as the last intruder at the hands of the police. She could feel his heart beat fade as the last gunshot rang in her ears.
There were at least twenty of them in her house and the police killed seventeen of them. Her father killed one and two died of their own rage or fear of retribution by the town. All twenty lay dead in her house, and she dared not exit her sanctuary until the adrenalin level in the officers faded to a safer level.
She returned to the day, memories of that night leaving her feeling exceptionally weakened. They warned her this would happen. She sat heavily onto the nearest chaise lounge to regain her outward strength. The therapists worked with her and doctors talked with her, all with the hopes of returning her to her rightful post in life. None were sure of how long she might stay in treatment, yet she surprised them with her progress. Within three weeks, they declared her fit to return to society, even if that meant living in a hotel until her house was livable again.
They released her two years ago, and during that time her house became livable through the work of her own hands. Her first task was to replace the front doors. The work took all day and half the night, but where once stood a gaping hole laced with crime scene tape, visitors were greeted by two ornate metal security doors rated to stand small arms fire. The delivery men insisted on helping her hoist the doors into place and were surprised at how quietly she worked. She never made eye contact with them, but rather guided the doors with her eyes and in short order, the doors covered the only breach they intruders used to shatter her world.
The delivery men declined her offer of cash for their help and went on their way. The neighborhood security patrol escorted them men out of the now gated community, as if that would help should another invasion occur.
She walked slowly into the front yard and examined the tracks and deformations left in the ground by the intruders, the police vehicles, reporters, and more recently curiosity seekers from out of town. Some just wanted to see the house where such a brutal attack occurred, some wanted to see her, and some wanted a small piece of the yard itself. The new security patrols stopped the uninvited from further trampling her yard. Detectives returned from time to time over the next year to take samples from the ground, blood samples from the walls, and document the path the intruders took in attack on her family. Forensic scientists poured over the evidence and confirmed her story.
Now with her outward strength restored, she rose from the chaise and walked into the back year. For the first time in two years, she allowed herself to sit in the soft grass. The intruders destroyed the picturesque front yard, but this part of her life they did not touch. More portions of her life became hers now, and fewer were theirs.
She glanced around the yard to scan for prying eyes. Today the Coffee Girl sat in her yard, and what a stir it might cause should she speak to a neighbor today. She longed for her freedom, the true freedom borne of youth and carefree days. She wanted that symbolic freedom she enjoyed that carefree summer when they installed the pool and its tall privacy fence, although the fence itself was almost prison like in appearance, prompting her mother to step in the next summer and have it replaced with something equally private, but more ornate.
That summer, she shed her clothes for freedom, and along with her sister learned more about freedom than most learn in a lifetime. As a girl in her late teens and her sister in her early twenties, they could enjoy the pool without worry, clad in as much or a little as they wished. Since their brother took care of family business overseas and her sister had no suitors that summer, freedom was a lesson to learn and something to be enjoyed.
“Ever think about why we are who we are?” she asked her sister one lazy afternoon. She floated carefree on her back, the water caressing every part of her body leaving her as light as a feather.
“We are who we are because dad found mom and they had unprotected sex at least three times, so what’s your point?”
“Well, we have all this, but who knows where we would be if we didn’t, like maybe if we were from another place, another time, or dad was a general laborer instead of an investment banker.”
“We’d still be us, without all the trimmings, and maybe today we would be at a public pool with modest suits, instead of nature suits. This is such a nice day, so why ruin it by thinking so much?”
“We do have our perks here” she said.
“That we do, and we have successful, loving parents who make sure we don’t squander those perks.”
“Don’t worry about that. Even my bike is more practical than they might realize. It gets great gas mileage and I can add a sidecar should the mood to marry and have children ever hit me.”
“Marry? You’d have to date first! When was your last date anyway, the Country Club’s Spring Formal?”
“Now who’s ruining a perfect day?”she accused. She did hate it when her sister made a valid point against her. True, she did not date much in contrast to her sister who seemed to have a different would be suitor every season. She dated for those occasions when her mother insisted she be seen with a young boy of suitable social stature and those relationships ended as soon as the conversation turned to something more serious than the weather or her volleyball team.
“I’m happy with my life, with or without a boy in it’, she defended to her sister after a bit of a pause.
“And I see that, just like today I am very happy no boy is going to complicate my day with some idiotic plan for a dinner and movie with hopes of getting into my pants. “
“That’s why”, she agreed.
The pool sat neglected, stale stagnant water a testament to two years of her inability to understand how to get the cleaning apparatus to work properly. She did not want to hire this work out, and at this time of year, most of the pool services were cleaning gutters anyway. She made her way to the shed filled with outdoor supplies and found the manual for the pool. Within an hour she understood how to drain and clean the pool and its plumbing. The manufacturer of the pool recommended this pool be drained when the water in this condition and the bottom and sides of the pool be pressure washed once the stagnant water was removed.
Since this was an in ground pool, they recommended water remain in the pool to avoid floating or heaving of the pool. She looked at the sky and calculated it would take overnight to drain the pool into the storm sewer. The pressure washer was functional, so she readied it for the task of washing the pool and placed this task on her to do list for tomorrow. Maybe she would replace those light bulbs as well. She put them on her list, careful to think about where the bulbs were stored. If she did not have spares, then she would order them out of the house’s maintenance budget.
She returned to the house, retracing her steps so she would be sure to close all the right doors and gates. This was a mere habit for her, as the neighborhood security had strict orders to secure her house at her call. She never called them, but made sure through her motions she took care of her own security.
Spare bulbs were indeed where her mother told her they would always be. Thinking about her to do list for tomorrow, she decided today was indeed a better day to change the bulbs in her bathroom. After all, tomorrow she would want to see if she removed all the grime from her body after tackling her pool. This also gave her a better sense of her own power as well. Now she could see everything in her bathroom clearly, and she needed to see everything in a better light.
© 2010 George Love
AboutI am a retired Paramedic with over 20 years of Emergency Medical Services experience. While attending Middle Tennessee State University and Volunteer State College, I majored in Music, English, Preme.. more..
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